The Children's Library of Upper Riccarton

Gathering Support

The mothers however would not be dissuaded so the men agreed to allow the women to form a sub-committee to investigate ways and means. The women were under few illusions about the men's motives for this move. As Joan Fazackerley wrote some years later, "This was done mainly to keep the mothers quiet and give them something to do. But as far as the ladies were concerned they were off!".

Where to go next? The first approaches were made to the Canterbury Public Library (as it was then called) administered by the Christchurch City Council, the largest library system in the province. Naturally enough the librarians were sympathetic. But they could offer the mothers little by way of practical help. The Canterbury Public Library had recently started supplying children's books from a pool, to suburban community libraries run by volunteers in the Christchurch rating area. But Upper Riccarton fell way outside the city boundaries (indeed was separated from the city by Riccarton Borough). The City Council, the women were advised, would only consider supplying pool books outside its rating area if a substantial fee was paid by the organisation involved. Certainly far more expenditure than any small voluntary committee could easily hope to raise on its own. Nor was luck forthcoming when the Country Library Service was approached. Much of Upper Riccarton was still rural, fields even bordered parts of Riccarton Road (though they were rapidly being built upon). It was worth exploring. Again moral support was personally expressed by the library staff, particularly the head librarian Jean Wright, who was as keen as anybody to see more children encouraged to read. But Upper Riccarton was too close to the city to be within their designated rural service delivery areas.

The women's sub-committee decided perhaps the local County Councils would help fund joining the Canterbury Public Library children's library pool scheme. Both Waimairi County Council and Paparua County Council were approached - after all the boundary between the two counties ran right along Riccarton Road at Church Corner - the proposed library could be potentially in either county. Which itself proved to be part of the problem. Neither county was enthusiastic about investing major funds in a public enterprise which would draw a significant portion of its participants from the neighbouring county. The focus of the mainly rural Paparua county and its farmer-politicians was, anyway, on repairing pot-holed shingle roads and new irrigation schemes not children's books. A donation of three guineas was offered as a token of support but nothing substantial enough to equip a library.

It seemed without such official backing all dreams might be dashed, and then, in the time honoured way that "God helps those who help themselves" and fate supports those prepared "have a go" a piece of serendipity occurred. The sub-committee discovered that the community library at Opawa was henceforth going to source its children's books from the city pool and would no longer need its existing stock. Approached by the Upper Riccarton children's library sub-committee, those at Opawa were friendly and supportive. They agreed to sell all books from their existing children's stock to the Upper Riccarton group. The Canterbury Public Library had already removed books they considered suitable to incorporate into the pool but there were still 700 remaining. The basis of sale was "as is where is", good, bad, battered and indifferent. The price asked was very supportive, a goodwill gesture towards the Riccarton committee, 10 pounds for the lot. Concern about whether that amount of money could be raised in time was put at rest when husbands of two women on the sub-committee, Eddie Britnell and Maurice Fazackerley, said they would put in 5 pounds each.

Meanwhile a hard-working secretary [Valerie Clark] wrote dozens of appealing letters to the long suffering local firms and businessmen and soon the Committee was receiving donations which gave new hope to the tired workers, whose spirits at the end of a long day's efforts were apt to flag a little. "Ten shillings here, two pounds there" - donors included local businesses C. W. F. Hamilton Ltd, (in those pre-jet boat days assembling bulldozers), Associated British Cables, Canterbury Jockey Club, Gilmour & Hill, and the Carpet Manufacturing Company (Feltex). By the time the Upper Riccarton War Memorial Library held its next committee meeting the women were able to report they had over 700 books and about 72 pounds - the equivalent in modern day purchasing terms of several thousand dollars!

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